Game Day: Intermediate Darkness

My gaming group entered Book 4: Eternal Night of Paizo’s Second Darkness adventure path this weekend, officially taking us past the midpoint of the campaign. All along the heroes have been battling the drow, including a massive fight to take back Celwynvian. They have learned that the “cave elves” intend to use ancient magic to bring about “a second darkness” as they send a massive meteor crashing into Golarion. To prevent this our heroes have taken on the appearance of drow, and journeyed to the drow vault city of Zirnakaynin.

It’s tough. The whole point of this adventure path is to reveal the drow to Golarion, not unlike how the Against the Giants/Vault of the Drow storyline introduced them to Dungeons & Dragons. The difference is … we already know about the drow. They went mainstream in gaming circles long ago and gave rise to a certain scimitar wielding drow hero.

It’s hard for all of us not to metagame the drow, and simply let the reveal happen, but I think we’ve done a decent job of that. Harder still was the mission of Eternal Night, in which our heroes are magically bound to the skins of their fallen foes and then sent to infiltrate a drow city. They have fought the drow and suffered through a few self-righteous, arrogant monologues, but in game they know little of the civilization they are being asked to infiltrate. That’s created a certain apprehension in the group, which transformed into a healthy paranoia once the party’s entered the city. Heck, in the 3.5 short hours we played the game there were a half-dozen debates about whether or not to off the devious drow they encountered.

As a Dungeon Master, I find the entire scenario difficult to run. Because the PCs are acting as though they know nothing about the drow (rightly so), I have to describe everything in greater detail. The depravity of drow culture is easy; who belongs to what faction is much harder. Most of the random encounters are sparse — last night the heroes encountered a demon cultist sacrificing a drow male in the streets. Ok … but which demon is the victim being sacrificed to?

Ummmm… give me a minute and I’ll figure that out.

The book itself is riddled with editing errors, including an important non-player character who changes sex a couple of times in the book (and not intentionally; that’d be easier to deal with). The book also makes a lot of assumptions about what the PCs are going to do. After the first three books, I can guarantee that they won’t do what the book is expecting. I intend to handle it the same as before, throwing in encounters of my own or re-skinning existing ones. After last night’s adventure I need to take some time and create more detailed random encounters for the city, and do some work fleshing out some additional non-player characters for the heroes to interact with.

My immediate concern is the mid-campaign doldrums. Yes, we’re in a city teaming wiht drow, and yes, threats loom at evey turn, but we’ve been playing this campaign for a year and half. We’ve started flirting with other campaign ideas, and I even kicked around the idea of a break. Part of me wants to take two months an play some retro Greyhawk, try out Rogue Trader, or maybe run some Delta Green, but the storyteller in me wants to see this tale through to its end. Here’s to hoping the storyteller wins.

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